So far on the trail of her second presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton has spent days meeting with bowling alley owners in Iowa and passing out ice cream cones in New Hampshire.
But on Tuesday, she took her campaign to Washington, where Clinton returned to the playing field where she may be at her strongest – marble floors, behind closed-doors. Hoping to lock down support from Democratic lawmakers and labor unions, Clinton showed her strength at playing the inside game.
Her whirlwind day in Washington began early with breaking news on Iran’s nuclear program, did not relent as she met with Democratic members of Congress – including her top rival for the Democratic nomination – and continued into the evening with an audition before leaders of the nation’s largest organized labor group.
As the nation’s capitol was processing the national security breakthrough, Clinton returned to Capitol Hill with a cadre of heavyweight political aides in tow for six separate meetings with various groups of Democratic lawmakers.
In between, she spoke to reporters about her position on the Iran deal, calling it an “important step.” After that, between more meetings with House Democrats, she dialed into a conference call with three current cabinet officials and several former secretaries of state to learn more about the deal, a briefing made available to her by her status as a former secretary of state.
And after she left the Capitol, Clinton headed to the offices of the AFL-CIO to pitch herself to the executive council of the massive labor federation, hoping to earn their endorsement.
It’s unclear when – or if – Clinton even had time to eat. By the time she made it across the Capitol to meet with Senate Democrats during their weekly luncheon, she had missed the meal. “She got there late, she didn’t get lunch,” said Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid.
One Senate Democrat left the room early. It was Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is challenging Clinton for the Democratic nomination, but has found more enthusiastic support at large rallies in places like Madison, Wisconsin than among his colleagues in the halls of Congress.
“I have known Secretary Clinton for 25 years, since she was first lady. I served with her in the Senate. I like and respect Hillary Clinton,” he told reporters at a press conference. “But there are differences of opinion that we have which should be the basis for a serious discussion.”
“I helped lead the effort to stop the deregulation of Wall Street. I believe the biggest banks should be broken up and that Glass-Steagall financial regulations should be reinstated. To the best of my knowledge, she isn’t for either one,” he said.
Sanders was respectful inside the luncheon and stood and applauded for Clinton other senators said. Meanwhile, Clinton has already secured the support of almost two-thirds of Sanders’ Democratic colleagues, according to one tally.
That’s a stark contrast to last time Clinton ran for the presidency, when the caucus split and many of her fellow senators were supporting her then-colleague, Barack Obama.
The defectors included leaders like Reid – who declined to endorse Clinton today out of loyalty to Vice President Joe Biden – and some of the lawmakers who hailed Clinton’s visit today. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi quietly supported Obama then, but exchanged kisses with Clinton today in front of the cameras, and said she couldn’t wait for the candidate to enter the White House.
Among others, Clinton received almost uniformly positive reviews, even from lawmakers who have been skeptical of her in the past.
“She expressed values that are very consistent with the Progressive Caucus,” said Rep. Keith Ellison, the chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, who had hoped Sen. Elizabeth Warren would throw her hat in the ring.
“No matter where people end up gong, they’re two awesome progressives, in our view,” said Ellison of Clinton and Sanders.
Clinton had initially not scheduled a meeting with the Progressive Caucus, but added it later. Thirty-eight of its liberal members turned out to meet the candidate, according to a congressional aide.
After a different meeting, Rep. Louise Slaughter, a Clinton ally who represents New York was asked if she thought Democratic lawmakers might side with Sanders. “Bernie Sanders is running as an independent, I think, isn’t he?” she told reporters. “I remember quite well hearing he was not a Democrat, so I’m not exactly clear why he’s running on our ticket to be honest with you.”
Clinton twice led a stampede of reporters through the entire length of the Capitol building, as she moved from the House to the Senate and back again.
The train behind grew as more staffers and reporters attached themselves, meandering through a throng of iPhone-wielding tourists in rotunda who screamed for selfies with the candidate. But Clinton kept a brisk pace as her entourage pressed itself through narrow stairwells.
The former secretary of state was not the only fair-haired celebrity allegedly spotted in Congress today. Rumors swirled that singer Taylor Swift, in Washington for a two-night stand, had come to the Hill.
A persistent lack of sighting of the pop star did not stop some – including members of Congress – from hoping for a selfie of the two. “Staff tell me @taylorswift13 is roaming Capitol Hill. @HillaryClinton can you confirm? We could do a selfie,” tweeted Rep. Debbie Dingell.